A New year’s post!

Kumbakarna

Kumbakarna

Happy new year all :) Belated wishes and wishes still even if somebody moved your new year to a different date :P On Vishu day, (apparently) it is tradition to pick a random chapter in the Ramayana early in the morning, and whatever is read is said to have some impact on the reader’s life in the coming year. I tried it yesterday and the chapter I picked was about Vibheeshana’s confrontation with Ravana. It was quite serendipitous as the event has constantly been a source of confusion to me. To elaborate …..,

Vibheeshana

Vibheeshana

Two of Ravana’s brother are source of particular interest – Kumbakarna and Vibheeshana. Both, at some point advise Ravana against a war with Rama. However Vibheeshana is shouted at for this advise and  leaves Lanka to join forces with Rama and betrays many of Lanka’s secrets to Rama. He is later anointed King of Lanka after Ravana’s death. Kumbakarna makes the same advice but follows it up by comforting Ravana speaking of an assured victory despite knowing fully well what was in store for him. Kumbakarna is eventually killed in battle.

Kumbakarna’s actions are all too familiar. Actions like his are replicated in the Mahabharatha and is generally seen as the nobler of the two courses. Vibheeshana is often criticized for betraying his King and is commonly seen as an usurper and traitor. So then what is the confusion? Vibheeshana is (at the end of the epic) ordered by Lord Vishnu in the original form to guide people towards Dharma. He also becomes an immortal joining the ranks of Hanuman, Parasurama and Mahabali. What the _?

For those of us who are used to seeing the epics in black and white (no, not literally) – and thanks to Ramanand Sagar for this – this situation is confusing. What is correct here? Too often in life we are faced with similar situations. When and why is it ever right to be a snitch!! And the epics seem to be of no help here – both courses are shown as good and not against Dharma. All along, Valmiki continually praises the qualities of Vibheeshana – he is at no point portrayed as greedy or selfish. Instead, the descriptions are

“Vibheeshana spoke to powerful Ravana the words convinced of reason and which were very much beneficial. He, who could discriminate between good and evil things in the world, having sought the favour from his eldest (half-) brother by means of soothing words arranged in an order, spoke in consonance with place, time and purpose.”

I am not still fully clear why this action is considered correct. I am not at that level yet. But the original author clearly seems to think so. Feel free to read the original text and make sense of it. If you come by interesting commentaries, I would love to be notified.

The intention that drives your action is perhaps more important than the action itself. From a different perspective, this episode reinforces the idea that there is no distinct line between black and white in such situations.

I want to make a special note of this because it is very easy to get lost in the strongly polar natures of the main characters in the epics. The epics would seem to be of no practical use as situations or characters as seen in them would never happen in real life. In fact however, there is a large trove of such useful tips and indicators buried within them. Many answers are here. So take a closer look.

References and Further reading:

Note: Nope, this is no longer going to be an exclusively tech blog. There is enough boring content on the net already. Time for some arbit content. Sure there’s enough of that too, but the world could always use more :P
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3 thoughts on “A New year’s post!

  1. Quite Intriguing. If a person is not loyal,righteous and all the other adjectives but still manages to be on the good side or rather god’s side, he becomes a reverend. Sad.

  2. Good to see you posting after a while da. There is literally no good or bad da – Which is why we can’t say he was good, and he was bad. Worse, many things may be simultaneously good and bad. Forget Vibheeshana, there is plenty of doubt whether Rama himself was good!

    I read an interesting perspective on this a long time ago. The author argued that the sages who wrote all this, could easily have modified the story so that Rama was distinctly good – No killing Vaali behind his back, and so on. However, that was not their aim. The author argues that the point of these epics is to get the people to think about the issues – Was this good or bad? Should he have done that? What would I have done in that situation? The author says such contemplation alone will make a man moral and good – Not following a rigid set of rules.

  3. @vvijay03 : Yup. very impulsive post. I noticed one a friend’s blog roll a link to thegreendestiny and below it said “over a year ago”. So I thought I should do something about it. Of all the things, idhu dhan kedachidu :P Thats an interesting note! Definitely a very sensible thing they did, indeed. Thanks!

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